House GOP Aims To Block Funding For U.S. Embassy In Cuba

| by Ethan Brown

Just days after President Barack Obama formally removed Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list, members of the U.S. House of Representatives are attempting to block billions of dollars in funding to a proposed American embassy in the communist nation.

The language was included in next year’s funding bill for the U.S. State Department, intertwining the two issues into what will likely be a more complicated battle in the future.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, a Republican, focused on Cuba’s ongoing treatment of its citizens and the numerous human rights violations the country has reportedly precipitated over the last several decades.

“I think we have been very clear with our challenges with what’s going on with Cuba and human rights, and we have a difference of opinion with the administration and we have a right to express it,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy’s bill, released on Tuesday, will also provide democracy assistance to Cubans and give U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry the authority to deny visa permits to members of Cuba’s Communist Party and the nation’s military, The Washington Examiner reported.

Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, a Cuban-American, has vehemently opposed the Obama administration’s attempts at making amends with Cuba, which include the president's efforts to normalize relations with the nation and begin to conduct business with the Cuban government.

Even members of Obama’s own party have publicly derided the president’s actions.

“This dangerous and misguided policy is resulting in the U.S. conceding on bedrock values, while Cuba is only more intransigent and uncompromising in its disrespect for universal values and freedoms,” Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said, following the administration’s removal of Cuba from the terror list. “It is terribly disconcerting that the list of unilateral concessions by the Obama administration continues to grow without any signs of reciprocity from a despotic and reinvigorated Castro regime.”

Under the rule of Fidel Castro and now his brother Raul, Cuban residents have been subject to some of the strictest laws on individual rights. For example, bloggers and protesters are routinely arrested and not given a fair and speedy trial.

“Prisoners often sleep on concrete bunks without a mattress, with some reports of more than one person sharing a narrow bunk," the State Department reported. "Where available, mattresses were thin and often infested with vermin and insects.”

The nation’s treatment of gays and lesbians has also been widely documented. Gays and lesbians were once imprisoned or institutionalized for their sexual orientation in Cuba. According to the journal "African Health Sciences," the Cuban government sent all residents who tested positive for HIV into confinement from 1986 to 1994.

Sources: The Washington Examiner, The Hill (2), U.S. National Library of Medicine, Vox.com

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Patricio Bridges/Flickr